The largest student union in Britain has officially endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, in a significant success for Palestine solidarity activists.
The University of Manchester’s Student Union Senate voted last Thursday to pass a motion in support of BDS. The motion won the backing of 60 per cent of the SU Senate, following an impassioned debate.
The motion was put forward by Huda Ammori, President of Recognise Refugee Rights Society, and was supported by Etisha Choudhury, President of Action Palestine, and the BDS Campaigns Committee.
In the three weeks prior to last week’s Senate meeting, more than 15 academics and 250 students signed a letter of support for campaigners’ demands.
According to activists, the campaign at Manchester “aims to connect our university to this global movement for justice and equality, and calls on the university administration to end its ties with businesses and institutions that are particularly complicit in violations of Palestinian human rights.”
Specifically, the campaign demands that the university “sells its £15 million of investments in companies linked to Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people”, including a stake in Caterpillar, whose bulldozers are used by the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian homes.
Students claim that “these investments are a violation of the University’s own Ethical Investment Policy which seeks to eliminate investments in companies linked to violations of human rights.”
A second demand is for the university to cut its ties with Technion, an Israeli university with deep ties to the Israeli arms industry and defense establishment, where research is conducted on weapons that are then deployed against occupied Palestinians.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS), which campaigns against the BDS campaign and Palestine solidarity activism, said it was “extremely disappointed” in the vote, and claimed that the proceedings “left many Jewish students present in a state of distress.”
Another pro-Israel activist claimed that Jewish students who opposed BDS at the senate meeting were “beg[ging] for their safety on campus”, though gave no evidence that student union support for the Israel boycott would have any implications for the safety of Jewish students.
BDS activists at Manchester, while celebrating the vote, have vowed that their campaign “will not end until the university divests approximately just under £15million in companies which facilitate Israel’s war crimes”, and end links with Technion.